The last Saturday in September is the Cabrillo Festival at Naval Base Point Loma here in San Diego. It actually is the Navy’s submarine base. Only one day a year can a member of the general public like me get onto the base.
It’s a historic area because it’s where Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo landed his Spanish galleon in 1542. Cabrillo was the first non-Native to visit what is now San Diego.
The 2017 Cabrillo Festival has been on my calendar for a year. I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to walk around the base. Certain areas, of course, were still off limits. One of the first sites I saw was this marker:
THE FREEDOM TREE
WITH THE VISION OF UNIVERSAL FREEDOM
FOR ALL MANKIND
THIS TREE IS DEDICATED TO
CAPT. HOWARD RUTLEDGE
PRISONERS OF WAR
MISSION IN ACTION
Here’s the Freedom Tree:
Capt. Howard “Howie” Rutledge was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on November 13, 1928, and died of cancer in Norman, Oklahoma, on June 11, 1984.
He spent 7½ years as a prisoner of war in the “Hanoi Hilton” after his plane was shot down on November 28, 1965, over North Vietnam, and was released in 1973 as part of the general prisoner release. He later served as commanding officer at a naval air base in the Pacific and retired after 34 years in the Navy.
Rutledge co-wrote a book with his wife, “In the Presence of Mine Enemies,” detailing his time as a POW. Upon being published, it became the first book-length, firsthand account of the experiences of American prisoners of war in Vietnam.
For more on Capt. Rutledge, visit the Pow Network.